Tunisian President Kais Saied claimed on Saturday that the attack in Djerba, in which two Jews and three police officers were killed, wasn’t antisemitic.
According to the Tunisian newspaper La Presse, Saied spoke during his visit to the Ariana district near the capital on Saturday. A video of the visit and the president’s statements was published by Saied’s office as well.
The shooting took place near the ancient El Ghriba Synagogue (also known as the Djerba Synagogue) in the Tunisian city. The two Jewish cousins who were murdered in last Tuesday night’s shooting were Aviel Hadad, 30, who was also an Israeli citizen working as a goldsmith in the local market, and Ben Hadad, 42, who lived in France and came in order to celebrate the festivities.
According to La Presse, Saied said that “here, in this place where I stand now, Tunisian Jews fleeing the Nazi forces who had pitched their tents here found refuge in this house, that of my grandfather.”
Saied responded to Western accusations of antisemitism and said that “these parties do not hesitate to make the false accusations of antisemitism while they turn a deaf ear when it comes to dealing with the plight of the Palestinians who are dying every day. The Palestinian people will succeed against all odds to triumph and recover their despoiled land.”
Saied referred to those calling the attack antisemitic as “the forgers of history bent on distorting history, falsifying facts and spreading untruths” and accused them of plotting “conspiracies against the state and endangering social peace.” Saied added that foreign parties leveling accusations of antisemitism were displaying “a garish duplicity of attitude and a short memory in grasping history, real history.”
In a statement reported in Arabic media, including Al-Ain media in the Gulf and Middle East Online, Saied put out a message of reassurance last week to Tunisians following the attack.
Last Wednesday, Saied condemned the attack near the historic Djerba synagogue.
Saied stresses that Tunisia is safe despite attempts to undermine stability
On Saturday, during a meeting with Tunisian Prime Minister Najla Bouden Romdhane and other government officials, Saied stressed that “Tunisia will remain secure despite the desperate attempts to undermine its stability,” according to a press release by his office.
The president additionally stated that he was “surprised” by accusations of antisemitism, adding that “it is strange that in the twenty-first century, some people still talk about antisemitism unless they want to preserve the seeds of division and benefit from this discourse.”
Saied referred to a number of Tunisian laws benefiting the Jewish community and ensuring freedom of religion, including one prohibiting carrying out any administrative action against the Jews on the Sabbath or on Jewish holidays.
Saied additionally quoted the Koranic verses reading “And do not argue with the People of the Book except in the best way, except for those who do wrong among them. And say, ‘We believe in what has been revealed to Our God, and your God is one, and to Him we are Muslims.’”
European rabbi condemns Tunisian president's statements
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER) has released a statement on Monday, saying that "the CER calls on European governments to condemn the inflammatory statements of President Kaies Saied of Tunisia implying that the Jews of Tunisia are responsible for the bombing of Gaza."
Goldschmidt said that "through such wanton remarks, the President continues to incite further hatred and even attacks against the country’s Jewish community, heaven forbid."
Goldschmidt added that since the attack, the Chief Rabbi of Tunisia "has neither been visited nor contacted by any members of the government. The Tunisian President together with the relevant authorities should instead be offering support to the Jewish community and working to ensure its safety.”
In a statement reported in Arabic media, including Al-Ain media in the Gulf and Middle East Online, Saied put out a message of reassurance last week, to Tunisians following the attack.
Seth Frantzman contributed to this report.